On Thoreau, Nature, and Wildfires
Growing up, I hated nature. Living in the woods of New Hampshire by the time I was twelve, in a town with one (blinking) traffic light, I preferred staying indoors if at all possible; reading, or singing into a brush in my mirror to a Whitney Houston record, or talking on the phone to my junior high boyfriend.
But in high school, I read Walden and fell in love with Thoreau’s view of nature. His meditative take on the seasons and his insistence on living a life where you notice what is around you really struck me. I underlined too many of its passages to count with a hot pink fountain pen and kept the book through my dozens of moves since. And I’ve had a soft spot for Thoreau ever since that time.
When I moved to California from the East Coast, I finally fell fully in love with nature, myself. Something about winter rarely getting below fifty degrees really worked for me, after a lifetime of dreading winter. Though I swore I wouldn’t before I moved here, I began to love hiking (Northern Californians loooove to hike, and I was not immune to its charms). I love climbing to the top of a tall hill and seeing the ocean. It’s a sight that never ceases to surprise and delight me. I take more pictures of sunrises and sunsets than maybe anything other than my children. Loving nature has become part of who I am.
But today I sit in my office with what is normally a view of the Golden Gate Bridge, I just see grey. The air is filled with smoke and ash due to our location in relation to one of California’s multiple burning wildfires right now. Last year we came perilously close to losing our house in the Montecito fires, and we know many people who have lost or nearly lost their homes in just the past two years. California is in peril. Deadly raging fires have suddenly become the norm each year, and the loss of life and property is stunning and heart-breaking.
My heart hurts for my state. The state that taught me, finally, to love all that the natural world holds. The state whose beauty changed me.
I want better for my state, for my children who are growing up as Californians, and for all the people who live here. I hope that we can find solutions to this problem that has become wildly exacerbated in the past few years, due to the rising of temperatures here.
And, in the meantime, I am grateful that life has taught me to love and appreciate nature. I look forward to when the skies clear so that I can appreciate the sunset again.